Triumph of spirit for rowing

Nelson Beltran - The Philippine Star

TOKYO – For the whole Philippine rowing team, it’s a triumph of the spirit as young bet Cris Nievarez assured himself of at least the quarterfinals in his Olympic debut under difficult circumstances.

Nievarez turned one concern into a rallying point, putting up a worthy showing in his heat at the Sea Forest Waterway yesterday to advance to the men’s singles sculls quarterfinals.

The 21-year-old Atimonan, Quezon pride sparkled in the placid water in the midmorning summer heat, with coaching from his foreign mentor in isolation here due to COVID.

And Uzbek coach Shuhrat Ganiev was the first to call the team right after Nievarez’s heat.

“He was saying sorry and he’s congratulating us. But we said, ‘No, congrats to us.’ Walang may gusto nang nangyari, and we’re all in this. Lahat tayo masaya for Cris,” said rowing official Magnum Membrere.

It’s quite a feat for the Olympic debutant who joined the march of rowing giants into the quarters and avoided the knockout races in repechage today.

Nievarez, placing third in his heat behind Rio Olympics silver medalist Damir Martin of Croatia and world indoor champ Alexander Vyazovkin of Russia, gave a lot of credit to his Uzbek coach.

“Sobrang laki ng tulong niya sa amin simula sa SEA Games. Ginising niya ang rowing sa bansa natin. At derecho-derecho ang programa niya sa amin mula qualifying hanggang sa ngayon,” said Nievarez.

“For the Olympics, ginandahan pa niya, dinagdagan pa niya,” Nievarez added.

Ganiev helped a lot despite running his program from Uzbekistan via online conference due to the pandemic.

In isolation here, he had his pregame powwow with Nievarez also via online.

Racing according to their game plan, Nievarez gave the entire Team Philippines a boost on his quarters entry.

Nievarez clocked 7:22.97 in the 2,000m race, 10 seconds clear of Nicaraguan Felix Potoy and 18 seconds ahead of Benin’s Privel Hinkati.

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